Who would expect to find crocuses blooming after two hard frosts in October in Kansas? Not I, but there they were as a rode my bike down the hill and into my driveway. Their beauty took my breath away.
But if we look we find a lot of unexpected pleasure all around us. I meet international students who push through difficulties of mental health, demanding academics, family problems, and home country upheavals, in order to achieve the goals they set for themselves. Their courage takes my breath away. I am honored to be a small part of their story. And I thank God for them.
How about you? Where do you come face to face with unexpected pleasure?
Do you have a favorite card game? Recently I picked up this deck of playing cards from the local book shop. Each card has slang phrase on it like, “You bet, couch potato, That hit the spot, kudos.” Underneath the phrase, they tell you what the phrase means.
I found the card game, “Crazy Eights” easy to teach. Remember Uno? My guess is the the creator of Uno got the idea from the older card game, Crazy Eights. When I play this with my English conversation group, every time a person discards, they read the phrase. Then, I explain it, use it in a sentence, and they have to try to use it in a sentence. This procedure brings a lot of confused looks and laughs.
The last time I met with my two friends, one speaks Persian and the other Spanish, I gave them three random cards and asked them to tell a story with the three cards. Challenging? For sure! Funny stories? You bet!
Try it. Here are three examples of slang. “Pass the buck. For the birds. Come on.” Now it’s your turn. Let me know what you come up with.
It is no secret that COVID brought a lot of stressors into our lives. Here is a summary about college students, the world over.
“Chegg.org asked about online learning, the cost of education, mental health, and more. This study deserves serious attention from anyone concerned with international education and the well-being of students. One significant finding: 56% of students surveyed said their mental health suffered during the period of Covid. 81% of students surveyed said their stress and anxiety have increased; 15% contemplated ending their life. Over 500 students surveyed, over 3%, attempted to kill themselves; the percentages were highest in Saudi Arabia, Brazil, USA, South Korea, Russia, Malaysia, Australia, India, Canada, and China” (Dr. Christopher Sneller).
It is no secret that people from all times and all walks of life have suffered from mental and emotional stresses due to difficulties they endured. I wondered about their lives; how did they handle things like depression, anxiety, loneliness, and anger? One of the most ancient and yet most relevant resources promises to give us a window into their lives. That resource is the Bible. People like Job, Paul, Elijah and various poets write about their anguish and resolutions.
Chai and Chat is a weekly meeting we (Bridges International) host for international students at Kansas State University. This fall, we tackled the topic of mental health by defining terms, listing resources, and reading and discussing what the Bible says about these topics. We ended each session with an art project using geometric shapes of three colors glued to a piece of paper. (We followed the method demonstrated and explained in Picture This, by Molly Bang.) Then we shared what we created. Some of the images reflected their own experience with things like anxiety and depression. Others retold the story or advice from the Bible. The discussion guides are now available from the tab at the top of this page. I hope you find them helpful.
An international student told me a professor looked over his paper and made a few suggestions. “You might think about changing page 2 and consider again what you wrote on page 9.”
My friend told me, ” I thought about changing page 2 and I read again what I wrote on page 9, but I decided not to change it. When I met with my professor again and he saw I made no changes, he was upset with me. But why? He asked me to think about it, not to change anything. So I considered but I decided what I wrote was good, so I left it.”
What happened? One person, the professor came from a culture of where requests to change come in the form of a suggestion. The student came from a culture where a suggestion is just a suggestion. Telling a person to change something comes in the form of, “Change this.” No wonder each person was confused.
Erin Meyer’s book, The Culture Map, takes eight topics of cultural confusion and helps the readers sort how each culture sees things. Included is a diagram which shows how countries tend to behave. Below are the topics.
Navigating Cultural Ways of Doing Things
Communicating: explicit vs. implicit
Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
Persuading: deductive vs. inductive
Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
Deciding: consensual vs. top down
Trusting: task vs. relationship
Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoid confrontation
Scheduling: structured vs. flexible
The discussion guides are found by going to “Eight weeks of Conversation Cafe.”
Best wishes for successful English conversations this fall, 2021 and beyond.
While reading in the public library, I noticed this book on the shelf under the sign, “Graphic Novels.” I have to admit I have never read Dante’s Divine Comedy and I was pretty sure I would not devote myself to it any time soon. In no time at all though, I was entranced by the superb drawings. Within a few hours, I completed the book, grasping for the first time what the poem was all about.
As I meet with international students to help with their English conversation, I suggest reading graphic novels. For one thing, it is easy to read through the book quickly because the word count is limited. The graphics fill in the details. Graphic novels are not just for children who like to read about superheroes like Spiderman. Graphic novels range in the category of fiction and nonfiction such as history and biographies. All of these books and topics lend themselves to great conversation.
We are only in the middle of July. Visit your public library and you are sure to find something that interests you and your friends.
These three books offer such a delightful way to engage in conversational English. Each page has a work of art followed by a description like, “Fashion is bias cut,” with a photo example. Or “New York is atmospheric,” or “Art is rendered.”
When I brought these books to my sessions, my friend was delighted. She kept lists of the new words. We discussed the pictures, looked up definitions and had some good laughs.
I highly recommend these wonderful resources produced by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Lock-down, isolation, and lethargy might go hand in hand. Here at Kansas State University, our Bridges International club started a virtual tour on Route 66, starting in Chicago and ending in California. How does it work? We joined the company, My Virtual Mission, which records how many miles the participants individually step, walk, run, ride, or paddle to a map on their website. Each person’s activity moves the whole group along. Currently, we are about 40% of the way, somewhere in western Oklahoma.
But why are we doing this? Well, first of all, knowing that you can inch your team across a map closer to a destination is motivating to move when sitting is easier. We also connect with each other daily by looking at our activities. At the Conversation Cafe, our weekly English discussion group, we learn about cities on the route and also cities in the hometowns of our international students. There is a spiritual component as well. Physical journeys change our perspective on life and give us new experiences. The ancient practice of going on pilgrimages suggest that travel can be an intentional way to connect with God in a new way.
All of us look forward to a new beginning at certain junctures in our lives. We move, begin a new job, start a new relationship, or a new academic course. Hopefully, we have learned from our past mistakes and successes and hope things will go better as we start again. While we might be apprehensive or even sad about what we have left behind, still there may be a glimmer of hope, an excitement for what might be next.
The Conversation Art Card, A New Beginning, is a way to have a discussion over a new start. Look it over, show it to a friend, and learn something about yourself.
What do you notice in this work of art?
Sphinx of Hatshepsut, ca. 1479-1458 B.C. From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Deir el-Bahri. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
2. A new beginning often starts with a new job, school, or relationship. What expectations do you have for yourself in a new beginning?
3. Choose a or b below:
a. Eli Khamarov said, “The best things in life are unexpected because there were no expectations.” What do you think Khamarov means?
b. The Old Testament prophet Micah describes what God expects of people. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Restate these thoughts in your own words. Do you think God’s expectations are reasonable and doable?
4. The sphinx sculpture shows Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh of Egypt. While acting as regent for young Thutmose III, she assumed and established her supreme authority. One way she did this was by commissioning statues of herself. To the Egyptians, a sphinx represented a king. Clearly, Hatshepsut marked a new beginning for herself as a pharaoh. Draw a picture or find a digital image representing a new beginning for you.